Plane pull fundraiser benefits Baton Rouge Arc
As Megan Dufresne stared down the nose of a 122,000-pound airplane Saturday morning, gripping a thick rope along with about 20 other people and mentally preparing to pull the empty Boeing 757 FedEx cargo plane a dozen feet as fast as possible, she envisioned herself slipping and being crushed by the plane’s front wheels.
“The size of the plane is intimidating,” said Dufresne, an athletic trainer and teacher at St. Joseph’s Academy.
But intimidation didn’t keep the St. Joseph’s team, with Dufresne at the helm, from lugging the plane 12 feet in about as many seconds, a triumph celebrated by 35 other mostly local company-sponsored teams Saturday at The Arc Baton Rouge’s annual plane-pulling fundraiser.
On a cool, breezy morning, with clouds noticeably absent in the blue sky, hundreds of people came to the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport to participate in plane pulls, enjoy live music and support The Arc Baton Rouge, the local chapter of a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
All of the proceeds from the event, which organizers hoped would eclipse $40,000 including the $1,000 per-team entry fees, directly funds The Arc Baton Rouge’s children’s services and inclusive recreation programs.
The children’s services program serves special needs children no older than three years old, teaching them how to live and grow in a natural environment such as their home, according to Arc officials.
The inclusive recreation division sets up sporting events and other physically demanding activities for children aged three and older who might not otherwise have access to those types of events, they said.
“Without this event we would not have those programs,” said Barry Meyer, The Arc Baton Rouge’s executive director.
The plane pull fundraiser has grown every year since the annual event began six years ago, Meyer said, and now offers a variety of festivities in addition to the main attraction, such as rock climbing, putt-putt and space walks for children, along with food and live music enjoyed by all ages.
Every few minutes, scores of attendees lined up to watch groups of men, women and children drag the massive plane. Using a rope attached to the plane, working gloves and brute strength, team members heaved the plane repeatedly, often spending about as much time moving the plane 12 feet as it takes world-class sprinters to run 100 meters.
Combining the spirit of giving with competition, The Arc awards trophies to the fastest team, the slowest team and the “most enthusiastic” team, said Sheryl Rimes, executive secretary of The Arc Baton Rouge.
The group that pulled the plane the fastest, at 6.8 seconds, was made of up people from Hooters restaurant of Denham Springs and Millet Motorsports, a custom bike shop in Denham Springs that closed about a year and a half ago.
The Arc’s Inclusive Recreation team finished slowest, at 13.95 seconds, and the most enthusiastic award went to St. Joseph’s, which brought along cheerleaders to encourage not only its own team but also all the other plane-hauling participants.